There’s an entire industry out there promising to “teach you how to write”. And you know what? None of them can deliver.
Now sure, they can help. How much? Whose to say? But can they “teach you how to write”? Nah.
Of course, I learned this through firsthand experience. I have spent lots of time, effort and energy exploring all sorts of stuff. (And money, too — let’s not forget that.)
From writing retreats to college classes to books on the craft of writing to writer’s groups and on and on, I’ve spent years and years and years as a student of writing.
And the only person that has taught me “how to write” is… drumroll please… me.
Don’t believe the hype. (Or the advertisements in the back of Writer Magazine for MFA’s and the such.) Only you can fashion yourself into a writer.
This is because writing, in a way, is a lot like cave diving (a.k.a. spelunking). Until you get down in there and start exploring, you have no idea what you are going to discover about both the cave and about yourself.
People can describe it to you. People can sell you the gear. People can offer guidance, insight, inspiration, tools and maps but until you’ve strapped it up and spelunked you are not a spelunker. And once you become a splelunker, it’s natural to want to help others spelunk… but in your heart you know that until they actually do spelunk they will not be a spelunker.
And as we all know, you can’t make anyone spelunk.
(Gosh, what a fun word!)
Of course, by taking the classes, reading the books, surfing the websites, attending the conferences and wearing the special glittery underwear essential to the craft (hey, whatever works, right?) I’ve picked up critical bits and pieces all along the way.
And it’s the accumulation of all those bits and pieces that make for the writer’s education. But they don’t come from any one source and they certainly don’t exist in any “buy this one fantastic product now” type of package.
So yes, buy the books, take the classes, subscribe to the RSS feeds and sport the hot pink, lace writing thong… but also know that you will never be able to buy the act of being a spelunker.